Circular logic comes to Vail |

Circular logic comes to Vail

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Round-a-bout Lanes DT 6-28-10

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Roundabouts work great to keep traffic flowing if drivers know how to use them.

“But this is a tourist town,” 30-year-old Edwards resident Paul Veldheer said. “Nobody knows how to use the things, so you either have people pulling out in front of you or just sitting there, not knowing what to do.”

Help could be on the way. Workers have painted arrows on the pavement in the Eagle, Avon and Vail roundabouts this past month. They’re part of a Colorado Department of Transportation plan to end the confusion surrounding roundabout etiquette. CDOT has embarked on a quarter million dollar project to add arrows, signs and lanes to roundabouts from Utah to Vail Pass, said Zane Znamenacek, CDOT traffic operations manager.

“The purpose of it is just driver consistency,” he said. “We have roundabouts that were built in Avon and Vail 10, 15 years ago and they were just done differently from how they’re done now.”

In the Vail area, crossing through several roundabouts is necessary to get just about anywhere. Drivers have developed varied – and often conflicting – strategies for getting around the loop.

Veldheer is always on his guard when he rides his motorcycle through the Avon roundabouts. Generally, he sticks to the inside lane until he’s ready to exit. However, that plan can backfire if other drivers ride the outside lanes, blocking his merge into the outside lane and forcing him to drive around the circle again.

“Nobody likes doing donuts – well, in the roundabout,” he said.

If the roundabouts are clogged with baffled tourists, Veldheer moves to plan B. He rides the outside lane instead.

“I guess there’s less worry about getting hit,” the Loaded Joe’s barista said. “You just have to pay attention to people on the inside because they’ll want to cut you off or run you over.”

The new arrows could help direct clueless drivers into the proper lanes, as long as drivers pay attention to the arrows, he said.

“Then again, by winter, it’s going to get worn off,” Veldheer said.

CDOT has a special design to prevent snowplows from scraping off the arrows. Workers have been grinding an arrow shape about 1/8-inch deep into the street, fitting a plastic arrow over the indentation and using a blow torch to melt the arrow into the niche, so the arrow is level with the pavement. Znamenacek said he expects the arrows to last for three to five years.

CDOT has been adding arrows to all the Avon roundabouts over the past three weeks. The town also added lane stripes. In Vail, CDOT has painted arrows on one roundabout in West Vail and workers plan to paint arrows on the rest of the roundabouts this week, Znamenacek said. In Eagle, CDOT painted new arrows on the roundabout at Sylvan Lake Road and Highway 6. CDOT also intends to add lane stripes to roundabouts throughout Eagle County, Znamenacek said. That work should be under way within two to three weeks, he said.

So far the reception from drivers is positive, although some say it’s too soon to tell whether the arrows will work.

“The test will be this winter when the tourists come through,” Eagle-Vail resident G.R. Rufenacht said.

As the town of Eagle plans to add four more roundabouts on Eby Creek Road several years from now, officials are already talking about how to direct Interstate 70 drivers who are unschooled in roundabout protocol. Town engineer Tom Gosiorowski said planners have discussed using signs that hang above the lanes to tell drivers which lane goes which way.

In the meantime, locals are hoping arrows will point the way to safer roundabouts.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

Support Local Journalism